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Key Stage 3 

Purpose of study: Music is a universal language that embodies one of the highest forms of creativity. A high quality music education should engage and inspire pupils to develop a love of music and their talent as musicians, and so increase their self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement. As pupils progress, they should develop a critical engagement with music, allowing them to compose, and to listen with discrimination to the best in the musical canon. - National Curriculum DfEd  

At Beaconsfield High School our focus at KS3 is to give all pupils significant musical experiences through practical composition and performance based study. Music lessons are practical, rigorous, theoretically grounded and contextualised. The aim is to give all pupils a basis for continuing their music-making beyond KS3 whether they choose to take GCSE level or not.

Each project will include:

  • Integration of Practice – playing, listening, composing (knowing through doing)
  • Cultural Understanding – Why does this music exist? Who plays it/listens to it?
  • Critical Understanding – What are the important musical features that are essential to this type of music?
  • Creativity – Opportunities to make something new based on musical features
  • Communication – What is this music ‘saying?’ What can I make my music ‘say’?

All pupils will develop their singing voice and their piano skills at KS3 as these are the two most useful and easily accessible instruments for all pupils. Instrumental work in lessons allows them to explore musical features in a range of styles and key features such as melody, chords and notation can be easily taught in large groups. All pupils will be taught piano and guitar skills and if they already play an instrument they should be using this to compose/perform when appropriate.

Topics covered during KS3 include: South African Harmony, Salsa, Minimalism, Pop Music, Musical Theatre & Creative Composition.                                    

Key Stage 4 - GCSE

Students doing GCSE music follow the Edexcel syllabus. KS4 follows on from KS3 with the three elements of Performance, Composition and Appraising.

In practice, few students take this course without considerable skill in an instrument and we therefore ask your daughter to be approximately Grade 4 on their main instrument at the start of the GCSE course. This will allow her to access the highest grades in the Performing component of the course.

Over the two years, girls will have lessons in composition and analysis. By the summer term of Year 11, girls will have submitted two compositions and be very familiar with the eight set works required for the Listening examination. There is an unseen element in the examination and girls will study a variety of other pieces to prepare them for this section.






2 performances:


Solo piece(s)

Ensemble pieces (s)

Total of 60 marks available:


30 marks for solo performance

30 marks for ensemble performance



2 compositions:


1 set to a brief

1 free composition

Total of 60 marks available:


(30 marks per piece)




4 Areas of Study with 2 set works in each

Exam at the end of Year 11:


Total – 80 marks

We expect pupils undertaking GCSE Music to take part in the wide range of musical extra-curricular activities that are offered at Beaconsfield High School.  There are also opportunities for KS4 students to become Music leaders and set up their own ensembles during the school week.  

Music Activities

The Music Department is a hub of activity during the school week. There are a wide variety of ensembles to be involved in whatever your grade and experience. Rehearsals take place before, during and after school.

Extra-curricular activities include:  Symphony Orchestra, Senior Strings, Wind Band, Chamber Choir, Chorale, Junior Choir, Advanced Junior Choir, First Orchestra, Guitar Ensemble, Junior Strings, Advanced Chamber Group. For more information on the days and times of rehearsals, please view Extra-Curricular Activities.

Symphony Orchestra: Symphony Orchestra is a large group of players from Grade 5 and above. All students are expected to audition for their place with most woodwind and brass players being at least Grade 7 on their instrument. Previous music has included Saint Saens Danse Macabre and upcoming concerts will include symphony music from the Classical and Romantic periods.

Senior Strings: Senior Strings consist of the string section of Symphony Orchestra. Rehearsals are once a week on a Friday lunchtime, with repertoire from Vivaldi, Holst and Piazzola regularly tackled. Senior Strings have recently come back from a highly successful tour to Prague and regularly perform in and out of school. Girls interested in this ensemble must attend Symphony Orchestra and be Grade 5 or above on their instrument.

Advanced Chamber Ensemble: This auditioned chamber group meet once a week under the direction of Mr Dan Dixon. Girls in this group are Grade 8+ and explore a wide variety of challenging classical music.

First Orchestra: This new orchestra is the training orchestra for all girls who are Grades 1-4. They rehearse once a week and perform in the main school concerts. Repertoire includes Strauss’ Radetzky March and Bohemian Rhapsody.

Junior Strings: Strings is for all girls in Years 7-9 from Grade 2 upwards. This is a training ensemble for the Senior Strings and Symphony Orchestra and repertoire includes Vivaldi’s Autumn and The Ashokan Farewell.

Wind Band: Wind Band is open to any girl who is Grade 3 and above. Rehearsals are once a week on a Monday lunchtime. Repertoire includes Eye of the Tiger and Liberty Bell. Wind Band perform in all the main school concerts as well as in assemblies.

Guitar Ensemble: This student led group rehearses on a Tuesday morning before school. All ages and standards are welcome. This group is led by two year 9 students who founded the group. Last year, they performed in the main school concerts as well as many

String Quartet: This student run group consists of four of our most able string players. The girls regularly perform at both internal and external events and this year, will be competing at Marlow Music Festival for the very first time.

The Bel Canto Choirs

Chamber Choir: This is our top choir at BHS and is by audition only. Rehearsals take place after school on Fridays and repertoire includes a range of sacred and secular music including Vivaldi’s Gloria, Pergolesi, Palestrina, Folk Songs and madrigals. Recent successes have included 1st place in the Marlow Festival in 2015 and 2016 as well as successful performances on tour in Dorset and Prague. It is essential to have some sight reading experience and all members must also attend Chorale on a Monday lunchtime.

Chorale: Chorale is open to all girls in Years 9 – 13. The choir rehearses on a Monday lunchtime in the Main Hall. The choir perform a variety of material from songs from the shows to contemporary choral music. Chorale perform in the main school concerts, on tour as well as play a key role in the Christmas Carol Service.

Baroque Choir: This highly successful chamber choir was formed by a current Year 13 student, whose passion for classical singing led her to set up this group. The eight auditioned girls rehearse once a week and have secured a number of internal and external concert performances including a performance in front of The Duchess of Kent.

Junior Advanced Choir: The Junior Advanced Choir was set up to develop very able singers in Year 7 and 8 who also sing as part of the main Bel Canto Junior Choir. This choir meets on a Monday morning and are expected to work on their part outside of rehearsals as well. This choir sings more complex repertoire to develop significant three part singing, and is a small group chosen by audition in the first few weeks of the academic year. Music has included Brian Lewis's Benedictus.

Junior Bel Canto: This choir is for all pupils in Year 7 and 8 and is accessible for all singing experiences. We develop our part singing in a range of styles and work on vocal and choral technique – all preceded by some fun warm-ups to aid learning. Rehearsals take place on Friday lunchtimes from 1.35-2.20pm and are supported by one of our Student Leaders. Songs have included South African songs, Carol of the Bells and When I Grow Up from Matilda.  

Music Tours Abroad

Music Tours are a popular and exciting experience for musicians of all ages and abilities. Last year, girls and staff travelled to Prague to perform a series of concerts over four days. The ensembles on this tour were Senior Strings, Chorale and Chamber Choir and we were fortunate enough to perform in St Nicholas Church in the Old Town Square, the historical Colosseum in Karlovy Vary and the cultural centre in Nové Město na Moravě. All three concerts were a huge success and attracted appreciative audiences. When not rehearsing, tour is also a time for exploring the country and staff and pupils visited the Charles Bridge, Old Town, took in a boat trip on the River Vltava, and visited historic churches and the Jewish Quarter and Museum.

In July 2018, Chamber Choir, Baroque Choir and Chorale are going on tour to Barcelona, where we will be performing in three fantastic venues, including Sagrada Familia and Barcelona Cathedral.